If you are arrested in Florida, the decision whether to answer any questions posed by law enforcement is entirely your own. You should give this matter your careful consideration because oral statements, as well as written statements, could be offered as evidence in court against you.
If you are offered any inducement to sign a document or if you are threatened, coerced, or forced to sign anything, advise your attorney immediately and the senior police official in charge. If you do not have an attorney, you may ask to see one immediately.
When are you under arrest?
You are arrested when law enforcement officers take you into custody or otherwise deprive you of your freedom of movement in any significant way, in order to hold you to answer for a criminal offense.
Police officers, under Florida law, are obligated to identify themselves and to advise you that you are under arrest and why, unless circumstances make it impossible for them to do so at that time.
You may, in fact, be under arrest even though no one has actually used the word “arrest” or any other comparable word. The fact that you have been deprived of your freedom of movement in some significant manner may amount legally to an arrest.
Ordinarily, private citizens do not have power of arrest in Florida; but under limited circumstances a private party may make an arrest where an actual commission of a felony is involved.
What happens if you are arrested in Florida?
Few people understand the criminal justice process. The following provides an overview of what you can expect if you are arrested in Florida.
In most cases, you are entitled to a reasonable bond set by the court. Our Office will assist you in getting a bond set or reduced, and in bonding out of jail. A bond is a binding agreement to pay money to the court in the event that you do not appear for your scheduled court dates. A bond is intended to ensure your appearance in the case. Your bond may either be a cash bond or a surety bond. To post a surety bond, you will need the assistance of a bondsman who will file a bond with the court on your behalf, guaranteeing your appearance at all scheduled court dates. The bond is a conditional release, therefore, if you are arrested for subsequent offenses while you are out on bond, your original bond may be revoked by the court without notice. If you cannot afford to post the bond that is set by the court, it may be necessary to request a bond reduction hearing with the court. Depending upon the severity of the allegations made against you, the court may also impose other conditions of your pre-trial release, which could include many other restrictive conditions, such as electronic monitoring.
Once you are arrested and have been in custody for twenty-four hours or more, you are entitled to a magistrate hearing for determination of whether probable cause exists for your arrest. Probable cause for an arrest is facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that a crime has been committed. If no probable cause is found for your arrest, you will be released on your own recognizance. In the majority of cases, probable cause is found by the magistrate judge and the bond amount is generally set pursuant to a standard bond schedule. If your arrest stems from an arrest warrant (a court order by a judge commanding your arrest), the judge signing the arrest warrant will set the bond amount, which is typically higher than a standard amount bond for the same offense.
Tracking Your Case
Within one to two days, the probable cause affidavit, or initial arrest report, on your case will find its way to the Clerk’s Office from the booking desk at the jail, and you will be randomly assigned a case number and judge. This information is computerized and viewable online at the Broward County Clerk of Courts Online Search. You can track certain information about your case, including court dates and case status from this web site.
Case Filing Decision
The State Attorney’s Office will generally begin to review the case filing package on your case within two weeks of your arrest and, if you are in custody, make a filing decision within 21 days of your arrest. If you are not in custody, the filing decision generally takes about 30 days, or longer. If the State files formal charges, that document is known as an “Information” and the Clerk’s Office will post your charges into their computer and you will be noticed with an arraignment date. You may also have changes to your bond on the same date, assuming there are added charges, or charges changed from those that you were originally arrested for by the police. This is common, because police do not always arrest you for the identical offenses that you are ultimately charged with by the State Attorney’s Office.
Before your charges are filed, you have an opportunity to provide the case filing Assistant State Attorney with additional materials, such as witness statements, documents, recordings, and papers for his or her consideration in determining what, if any, charges should be filed against you by the state of Florida. Often, supplemental materials provided by you will greatly reduce or eliminate charges that are being considered by the State Attorney’s Office. Therefore, pre-filing representation is crucial and is the first line of defense. If you do not avail yourself of this opportunity, the prosecutor will rely solely upon the case filing package received from the arresting agency, and likely will accept all allegations and statements contained in the police reports as true. Your defenses will rarely be set forth in the police reports used as the basis to arrest you.
The Defense Case
At or after arraignment, I will file a “notice of discovery”, which obligates the state to file a discovery response listing witnesses, papers, and other specific evidence upon which the state will rely in attempting to prove its case against you. You are entitled to take discovery depositions, at your expense, from all material witnesses in the preparation of your defense. The state will also provide you with copies of all relevant papers in your case, which may include witness statements, lab reports, photos, crime scene reports, and all other materials. You may also list defense witnesses and use defense exhibits in your case, provided that you give notice of these witnesses and materials to the state in advance. This is known as reciprocal discovery.
As your case progresses and as your attorney prepares your defense, pretrial motions may be filed on a variety of legal issues. As a general rule, the harder your attorney works on your case, the better your ultimate disposition in the case will be. Your attorney should examine the facts of your case to determine whether any or all of the charges filed against you can be dismissed and file the appropriate defensive motions for dismissal.
Final Disposition of Your Case
At some point you will need to decide whether you want to resolve your case by agreement with the state, to “plead open” to the court, or to proceed to trial. To resolve your case by agreement with the State Attorney’s Office, you, through counsel, and the State must come to a complete agreement regarding all the terms of an agreement for all of your pending charges. The court can accept or reject the terms of the agreement, but cannot modify the terms without your advance consent. If you decide to “plead open” to the, the judge will decide what sentence will be imposed, after considering your “Criminal Punishment Code Sheet”, which lists your offenses in severity and assigns points for those offenses. If you decide to go to trial, you can rest assured that Edward Salantrie and his 28 years experience will aggressively defend you and force the State to prove their case, if they can, beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. That is a very high burden is almost always decided by a jury of 6 in non-capital cases and 12 in capital homicide cases.
Sentencing Issues and the Criminal Punishment Code
The Criminal Punishment Code Score Sheet is document that the judge reviews at the time of sentencing. The score sheet tabulates a specific number of points per offense as set by Florida statute and scored at time of sentencing. If your total combined score is less than or equal to 44 points, the judge can impose a non-state prison sanction, which could mean county jail time of one year or less, house arrest, probation, a fine, payment of court costs, or even no punishment at all. If total points are greater than 44 points, the court will impose mandatory state prison time, unless the court finds a legal reason to depart downward, and is willing to depart downward from the minimum prison sentence set by the criminal punishment code. A downward departure sentence is one below the minimum permissible sentence, based upon a legally permissible statutory and non-statutory criteria.